As we get ready for the first of the many debates that we will see over the next 14 months, I want to encourage anyone watching to seriously consider what is being said. Some (such as my Democratic friends) will be making an elaborate drinking or Bingo game out of it, not really expecting anything of substance. Others will be looking for sound bites, that make them feel good (Donald Trumpites perhaps), and leave little substance. Others are seriously wanting to hear something palpable and unique, and something they can believe in. I have a few thoughts that we should all consider as we watch, whether out of fear, or out of boredom, and I encourage everyone go away from tonight (or other future debates [especially debates from a political party you don’t typically support]) with only a with more than an empty head and a drunken stupor:
- Don’t go in assuming a candidate will have nothing of substance
This is fallacious and could seriously hurt the overall reception of good ideas into your preferred party’s platform. Just because Hitler said something, doesn’t disqualify it from being a good idea. For example, as I write this, I am listening to the “happy hour” debate and I was actually surprised to hear Lindsay Graham (someone I would consider to support political anathema) to be making a very passionate case for social security. He may not be entirely wrong here.
- Ask what sort of relevance the question or answer might have
I can’t believe some of the dumb ass questions that get asked at these debates. I would stop and ask yourself whether the question has any substance to it, and depending on your answer to that, whether the answer given by the candidate is worth even considering. Unfortunately, we aren’t likely to hear a candidate say “Shut the hell up, that is a stupid question!” but, we can think that and not fall trap to the media soundbite circus.
- Ask what qualifies this candidate to appropriately answer this question
Sorry, but Donald Trump (or Rand Paul, or Hilary Clinton, or Ben Carson) are probably not qualified to say anything of substance on issues of woman’s health or Carly Jenner, or anything like that. I will gladly appreciate their varied opinions, but don’t think it means their answers have any value outside of that, and it is shameful that we require answers on certain non-political matters from them, when they are given such a short period of time to share their ideas.
- Ask what the candidate has to back up their claim or promise
What qualifies me to believe anything Ben Carson has to say on the economy? What makes me believe anything Donald Trump has to say on foreign policy? What reason do I have to believe Hillary Clinton can help the middle class? How do I know that Martin O’Malley will be able to keep our streets safer? Is Rand Paul going to be trusted to reform criminal justice? These are all questions we must ask, what sort of proof do we have to believe anything that is uttered in tonight or subsequent debates? Do research, look at their voting record (if they even have one), or their records in executive positions (both public and private), and ask if there is any reason you could feel justified to believe a word that is said.
- Finally, ask if this the proper role of the President
I would be cautious as to expect too much from the president. They don’t pass laws, and they can hardly enforce them. Yes, they can sign treaties, but they can’t have them approved by the Senate. So, when a candidate promises this or that, ask whether or not they can seriously promise that, ask if that is even appropriate for a president to fix. The president can’t fix our education problems, nor is that an enumerated power in the constitution.
In closing I will just say that it is wonderful to have such a large stage of so many unique candidates, and I could only wish that the debates would be opened up to other third party and less well-known candidates (there are actually 38 Candidates running for the Republican nomination!). I hope you all have fun watching and I can’t wait to get this shit show on the road!